A controversial anti-abortion film is set to hit Canadian theaters on Friday, and one woman from Halifax is speaking up about how traumatizing it can be for women — in particular those who have had an abortion.
The American film ‘Unplanned’ is due to screen for a week starting July 12, and will be shown in Cineplex theaters in Halifax and Dartmouth.
“What’s being shown in this film is an attempt to make me feel like a terrible person because I took care of my own body, my own health, my own life,” said Laura Slade, a 35-year-old woman who had an abortion when she was 20.
Slade said the film is coming up on the 15-year mark since she had an abortion, calling the coincidence “timely” and “personal” in a Facebook post.
Slade became pregnant by accident, through what she called “ignorance,” with someone she wasn’t in a relationship with.
“I was in a bad place mentally, financially, physically and nothing was right for me.”
She also said the pregnancy itself was “extremely physically debilitating.”
Making women feel ‘evil’
“I feel that the goal of the film is to basically take information twist it and turn it and corrupt it into something that makes pregnant people feel like just taking care of their own bodies is something terrible and evil, something equivalent to murder — which isn’t the case at all,” she added.
Slade said one of the main inaccuracies shown in the film is the scene where the main character is helping with an ultrasound assisted abortion. The character is depicted as describing seeing the 13-week-old fetus trying to cling to the womb, and seeing it have so-called pain reactions.
“It’s impossible. Fetuses cannot feel pain at 13 weeks. The earliest possible time for that would be 27 weeks of gestation because that’s when the nervous system that would sense pain actually start to develop. But even at that point there’s a lot of debate on what pain even is,” she said.
“There are also next to no abortions occurring in that time frame. There wouldn’t be something where someone decides, ‘oh I’m 30 weeks pregnant and I just decided I don’t want to have a baby anymore’,” she added.
Shannon Hardy is a sexual and reproductive wellness coach, and the founder of Abortion Support Services Atlantic. She said she agrees with Slade.
“I’m a social worker, not a medical person, but I mean, yes, that’s common sort of medical knowledge. They portray the fetus as a fully-formed baby,” said Hardy.
She said the majority of the people who are going to see the film are already anti-abortion and anti-choice.
“More than likely, nobody is going to accidentally go see this movie,” said Hardy, “but the chances of there being someone watching this movie who has had an abortion and didn’t feel comfortable telling anybody in their circle about it is really high.”
For that reason, she said it’s important for women to know that they have support, like the one being provided by Abortion Support Services Atlantic.
“Anyone can contact us regardless of their political views or their religious views,” she said. “They need support and that’s why we’re here.”
Spreading accurate information to help women
Slade, who just turned 35 on Thursday, decided to do something about the inaccurate information being depicted in the film — which she believes can mislead vulnerable, young women — by creating a fact sheet.
She’s also looking to locate an already existing brochure or pamphlet that people can print off on their own.
“My plan, and I believe the plan of several of my friends, is to attend other films around the time of different Unplanned showings and to just kind of drop information in different places inside the cinema itself,” Slade said.
She’s also planning to leave fact sheets and brochures in washrooms, and in public areas outside the cinema.
“My main goal is to simply distribute accurate information in the same place that this dangerously inaccurate information is being spread.”
Slade hasn’t watched the film, and thinks it would be interesting to watch in the future, but refuses to pay for it.
“The film is saying something along the lines of like you have more value as an incubator than as a human being of your own freewill and dreams and life and loves,” she said.
“It could have the effect of really really really doubling down on that abortion stigma that some people experience. The key I think is education. People just need to know the truth.”